Friday, September 23, 2016

The Toilet War

I think my toilet is out to get me. Seriously. If there are sentient toilets in the world, mine is one of them. I'm sure it has a mind of its own. If I hadn't already written a story about an insane tea kettle,
I would have to write one about the toilet. I'm not sure there's any other household... Would you call a toilet an "appliance"? I'm not thinking so, but I can't think of a better term. Anyway, I'm not sure there's anything more frightening than a toilet that's out to get you. Well, I already hate toilets, so, maybe, that's just me.

All of the things with the toilet began a year ago or so. I talked about the first time it had to be fixed here. In that post I talk about the thing that "should have been a pretty easy fix," which didn't ever get directly addressed because of the complications which occurred in trying to fix it. To put it simply, the leak, the thing that was making all the noise and keeping me up at night, was water running from the tank to the bowl because the flapper wasn't sealing adequately.

Like I said, putting in a new flapper shouldn't have been an issue, and it wasn't. Said flapper was one I put in. However, somewhere in fixing the other issues that developed, the flapper quit leaking, so it didn't get replaced.

Then, this happened. If that's not a horror story, I don't know what is. I mean, it's like that dream where you're going to class or, maybe, already in class, and you suddenly realize you're naked. Except, you know, for real.

Again, everything was fine with the toilet... Until it started talking all night again. AND KEEPING ME AWAKE! What the actual fuck?

But I got to play with food coloring in the tank trying to figure out exactly what it was that was leaking, which turned out to be the flapper. Of course. Because it makes so much sense that a piece of rubber covering a hole should be, I don't know, defective?

Look, here's the thing, flappers in toilets NEVER got replaced when I was a kid. They were these heavy pieces of rubber that I think you could have killed someone with if you'd thrown one at a person. That's not how flappers are made anymore, just so you know. Why do I know? Because I had to replace the relatively new flapper in my toilet because it was draining water like a sieve. And what I found out is that they're made to, basically, degrade, now, so that you have to replace them frequently. Seriously, you can buy multi-packs of the things (kind of like light bulbs) so that you have them on hand any time one needs replacing. Again, what the actual fuck?

So the toilet is fixed. Again. Again. But I'm sure it's out to get me. It's like hearing voices, except I'm hearing my toilet. I don't quite understand, yet, what it's saying, but it's definitely saying something. Maybe if I just move a little closer...

You know, if I don't come back, you'll know wha...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Clone Wars -- "Prisoners" (Ep. 4.3)

-- Crowns are inherited, kingdoms are earned.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

One of the more notable things about this arc of stories is how un-notable the names of the episodes are, and "Prisoners" is no exception. They're like not being able to think of a better name for your dog than Dog. Titles aside, though, this was easily the best episode of the arc. Which, honestly, isn't saying a lot.

Spoiler alert!
Because, yeah, I don't think this arc can get anymore spoiled than it manages on its own. Even though this episode is stronger, it still only rises to the cliche, especially in the final showdown between Prince Lee-Char and Riff Tamson. Tamson announces to the prince, "I killed your father!" and, of course, Lee-Char follows that up by killing Tamson, somewhat inexplicably suddenly finding some fighting skills which were completely nonexistent in the previous two episodes.

Oh, and he blows Tamson up. Yeah, it was kind of gross. And fitting because Tamson blew up several Mon Cala just moments before. Which was also gross. Seriously, it's one thing when they're blowing up droids, but it's something else entirely when they start blowing up organic beings.

And, yeah, I get the whole "blowing up the shark" thing being a thing from Jaws, even to the head floating by. At least I think the head floating by was a thing from one of the movies? I could be wrong. I haven't seen all of the Jaws movies and probably haven't seen one in at least 25 years.

The most significant bit of the episode was the revelation that Gungan's have magic adhesive spit. I think they should have named the episode after it: "Gungan Magic Spit." It would have been more interesting than "Prisoners." But, yeah, evidently Gungans have some kind of gooey spit capable of stopping air leaks. Unless it was just Jar Jar alone who can do that. At any rate, it's a bit like growing up with the original Star Trek series then walking in on the first episode of Next Generation just in time to see the saucer separate from the rest of the Enterprise. The best I could come up with was, "Really?" and to leave the room. Yeah, I'm not a fan of tossing something like in then saying, "Oh, yeah, it could always do that."

I'm really hoping this is the low point of season four. This arc is certainly, so far, the low point of the whole series. I don't remember, from my previous viewing, anything worse but, then, I didn't really remember this arc. For good reason.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Vain Hope

I've mentioned in passing somewhat recently that we've been having some issues with my daughter's softball situation. To say that there are "issues" is rather an understatement, in fact. It is so much an understatement that 1. My daughter is no longer on that team, and 2. Her leaving that team did not automatically make those issues go away, and we are still dealing with them. As such, I can't really go into said details although I would really like to.

All of this has me thinking, though, about my rather vain hope that at some point I would come across people who would just do the right thing. I mean, seriously, how hard is that?

I'm not talking about the asshole who is doing the wrong thing, either. When the asshole gets called out for being an asshole, you expect the asshole to double down on being an asshole. It's what assholes do. If assholes did the right thing, they wouldn't be assholes.

However, the people responsible for the asshole often don't appear to be assholes themselves, and there is always this hope that those people will do the right thing. A vain hope. Because the people in charge of the asshole tend to respond to the assholery by 1. trying to cover it up, or 2. saying the asshole didn't do anything wrong, i.e., the asshole wasn't being an asshole; you're just wrong/too sensitive/whatever. Oh, or my favorite (one of them, at least): The asshole was just doing his job; therefore, he is not really an asshole.

There are so many examples of this kind of thing in society which all turned into scandals and had movies made about them. heh I've even reviewed some of those movies. Take a look!
The Big Short -- At any point leading up to the financial crisis, there could have been people who said, "Wait, this is wrong. We're being assholes..." Oh,wait! They were all being assholes, so I guess that's why they all doubled down on their assholery and brought the whole country down with them.
Spotlight -- One of the absolute worst cases ever of protecting assholes. I mean, of all people, we expect priests to do the right thing, and, yet, by not being willing to put a stop to it, they perpetuated and made worse the... perhaps using the term assholery here is inappropriate. They made the situation worse. Much, much worse.
Philomena -- Again with the church but with nuns. And, again, the very people we expect most to do the right thing.

And I could go on with the examples, but, then, I could go on endlessly with them. Both very public examples like the ones above which were made into movies and smaller examples from my own life or from the lives of people I know. Oh, no, wait! There is one really good one that didn't even involve assholery, at least at the beginning. The whole thing with a mechanical problem with a rented U-haul trailer for which the manager wouldn't take responsibility. She wouldn't "do the right thing," which ended up costing U-haul way more than should have and costing her her job. (I talked about it back in this post.) It was definitely a situation where doing the right thing would have cost her absolutely nothing and, yet, she refused, and it ended up costing her a lot.

It's inexplicable to me, really, this way that people fight against doing what's right. Especially when that's actually the easy thing to do. I don't get it. I really don't.

And, so, now, I find myself in another conflict with people who have decided against doing the right thing. And I think it's because they believe I will just go away and let the thing drop and they will be able to get away with doing nothing to make things right. I'm sure they think that because that's what most people would do. That's what the other family that had the same thing happen has done. They let it drop. But, well, these people don't know me very well. I spent a month pursuing $80 from U-haul and, another time, most of a year pursuing a situation with Dell over a laptop they didn't want to fix. Those were relatively small things in comparison, and, honestly, it wasn't the money I was interested in either of those situations. If the woman at U-haul had just apologized for what had happened with their faulty trailer, even if she hadn't offered any reimbursement, I would have let the matter drop. Instead, she backed into that whole "It's not our fault" position and "we don't owe you anything." This, though, this is my daughter, and that's a whole new ballgame (yes, I'll claim the pun). heh Maybe, one day, there will be a movie made about it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Power Paradox (a book review post)

So... Power. What even is it? I think most people would say it's something about how able you are to tell other people what to do and have them do what you're saying and, while Keltner would probably agree with that, he would broaden the definition to include how able you are to make a difference in the world around you. Which, you know, is fine. I can go with that.

What I can't go with is Keltner ascribing the results of his small group experiments to the broader context of society.

So, yes, Keltner does have data, a lot of it, done mostly in labs (and colleges are labs, of a sort), mostly with small groups of people, and, frequently, with groups of people who didn't know each other prior to the experiment. And I can't argue with his results. I see how he came to the conclusions he came to within the contexts of the experiments he ran, but -- and it's a big BUT -- he applies his conclusions to society in general, and, no matter how I look at it, I can't see that any of his ideas, at least the ones dealing with how we gain power, apply to society at large and across other cultures (which don't necessarily have the same views toward power that we do). It's rather like Freud in his generalizing to all people the conclusions he came to from working with a select few of mostly women seeking him for psychological treatment.

Which is too bad, actually, because they are interesting ideas and conclusions.

To put it simply, Keltner believes that we give power to people who promote the greater good of the group. And that's all fine and good, but he also says we remove that power from people when they stop exercising their power for the good of the group and start exercising it for the good of themselves. And, well, I don't know if he's looked around lately, but there are an awful lot of people in power, exercising it for their own good only, who seem to be just fine where they are and in no danger of losing their power anytime soon, which is the weakness of the book.

Power, according to Keltner, is its own downfall, because it is the having of power which causes us to quit looking outward toward ways we can create the greater good and start looking inward to how we can create greatness for ourselves. And it's not that he doesn't get this stuff right, the things that having power causes -- I'm sure he is quite correct -- but he says it's giving into these power impulses that, then, cause us to lose the power we've acquired. That's the part I'm not seeing, these active dynamics he's talking about happening on a societal scale.

He talks about how power is a constant give and take, and he does demonstrate that on a small scale to some extent, but he never even touches on how or why the people in power who are demonstrably out for themselves are able to escape all of these natural punishments and consequences he says we have. It undermines his whole premise. The one thing he mentions that's kind of his out is that he says personal charisma is one of the biggest influencers on how we gain power, which, also undermines his theory of it having to do with contributing to the greater good, and he never talks about how it enables people to retain power after they've begun to abuse it.

The one part of the book he gets right, completely right -- and he gets it right because he deals with this aspect on a societal level -- is the section dealing with the effects of powerlessness on people. Having no power causes stress which leads to a further lack of ability to contribute to society (basically, the definition of power itself, according to Keltner) and poor health. He does nothing, however, to address the issue other than to say that these people need to be empowered.

I'm not going to say that the book doesn't contain some interesting ideas; it does. I will say that these ideas weren't ready to be a book, though. Even if he's onto something. And he might be onto something. But there's no way to apply what he says here to the world at large and no way to apply the principles he's come up with other than to say, "Be excellent to each other." Which, you know, is a great thing to say and something I agree with wholeheartedly, but he needs to offer some practical applications if he wants to write a book about it. Simply saying, "Be empathetic," isn't enough.